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Updated: December 13, 2013 19:01 IST

In the army now

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER
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Not autobiographical: Aditi Mathur Kumar
Special Arrangement Not autobiographical: Aditi Mathur Kumar

Aditi Mathur Kumar says she kept her debut novel Soldier & Spice intentionally simplistic because she wanted it to be a fast and enjoyable read

Aditi Mathur Kumar always wanted to be a writer. Her dream came to fruition when she “was pregnant and had literally had nothing to do,” she says. “My husband, who is a big fan of my writing, suggested that this was the perfect time to write the story I always wanted to. That was when the idea struck me. No one knows the story of the girl who married an Army man, changed several stations/cities/towns and cell phone numbers before anyone could keep a track, is surviving the long separations like it’s no big deal and basically running the entire house hold like a maverick when the husband is guarding the borders. I immediately knew this was a good one. So I wrote.”

And so Soldier & Spice (Westland, Rs. 250) a humorous take on Pia’s first year as an Army wife was born.

Since Aditi is an Army wife herself, one wonders how much of the book is autobiographical. “I get this asked a lot, because I am a complete civilian girl turned Army wife like Pia, but the book is not autobiographical. Yes, there is some personal reflection, Pia does face a few situations that I did – but most of it comes from the hilarious stories I’ve heard from all the fabulous fellow Army wives that I’ve met.”

The Nasik-based author doesn’t expect people to take offence because “I’ll draw your attention to the word ‘Fiction.’ Pia loves the life she’s been blessed with and the story ends with her telling the reader that this is where she belongs. I think balance was extremely crucial in writing about the Army wife life.”

In the book, army wives seem to be like a sorority. Aditi however begs to differ. “When you are at a station, the entire group becomes like your extended family. Army has a rich culture and the wives have a role to play. The hierarchy is taken very seriously because what is Army if not for its ranks? The book is a fictionalized version of the real life and like anywhere else, it all depends on the people involved.”

Commenting on books set against a defence background (Ismita Tandon Dhanker’s Jacob Hills was out earlier this year) Aditi says: “I think the reason can be that the readers are now open to exploring stories set in different backdrops.” The 30-year-old former advertising professional describes her husband as her “knight in crisp combats” (awww…) and according to him she is “the best writer to have walked the planet.”

Ask her which is her favourite character in the book and Aditi names two. “Arjun — he is the kind of man every girl falls for. He is funny in a goofy kind of way, he is brave, warm and strong. Then there is Mrs. Sengupta. I loved writing her character. She has this dry sense of humour that I find wonderful.”

Of the simplistic depiction of the armed forces in the book, Aditi says: “That is purely intentional. I wanted Soldier & Spice to be a fast and enjoyable read for Army wives and civilians alike. This is not a story about the Army. It is a story of a regular girl, with her very common issues and ordinary charms, who marries an Army Officer and enters a totally different, almost foreign world of elegance, grace and well, rules. Civilians, who have read it, have enjoyed it and hence, my work here is done.”

For research Aditi “had trusted resources in the Army including my amazing fellow Army wife friends. I looked up a few websites, mainly for the injury research. Then there is my husband, of course.”

Future plans include a book on “Pia’s story from another part of her life. I’m going to start writing it in a few weeks, let’s see how it shapes up.”

Kudos Aditi and best of luck for your new venture.

from:  Praveen KP
Posted on: Dec 13, 2013 at 22:59 IST
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